Strongwoman is a sport that is growing massively in popularity. It’s no secret that the sport is exploding amongst newer female competitors globally, but especially here in Brisbane. In many of the competitions we ran in 2017 we had only a handful of women competing each time; if we were lucky they would be in the same class so there was some competition. Fast forward to 2018 and our female classes have consistently been bigger than the male classes. This year, we will be running The Rise of the Valkyries, our first all-female competition, and we’re expecting competitor numbers to be bigger than most of our mixed competitions.
Whilst the physical benefits to come from training and competing (in any strength sport) are something fairly commonly known and obvious, there are a fair few mental benefits which aren’t spoken about as often. I’ll talk about 3 of the most important ones below.
Focus on what your body is capable of, not what it looks like
Many sports favour specific body types to give you an advantage. However, some body types just aren’t suited to particular sports. If you’re 150cm tall, no matter how hard you work you’re probably not going to be the best basketball player. In strongwoman, you will see EVERY body type represented as there are no real benefits to any characteristics that you cannot change through hard work and dedication. You’re quite short? Congratulations, you’ve probably got great levers for deadlifting and pressing! You’re a bigger lady? Congratulations, you’ve got a bunch of muscle mass which will be great for moving events! I’ve heard newer women to the sport come out with every excuse imaginable about why they couldn’t do xyz. Typically they’ll find that all these limitations are entirely psychological.
This isn’t to say that working towards lowering body fat, improving general fitness or increasing muscle mass isn’t beneficial for the sport. The reason for looking at improving your body composition is simple; what you look like isn’t the focus, but it is how you can perform that matters. Moving towards a high-performing body in strongwoman will necessitate a focus on health, which is something which every woman will benefit from at all stages of life.
The concept of anti-fragility was popularised by the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. To summarise the idea: being anti-fragile is the ability to not only cope with failures and hardship but to directly improve through experiencing them. In most strength sports, failing lifts is something that shouldn’t be happening and in competition, it usually only happens if you pick attempts poorly.
This is simply not the case with strongwoman. It’s not uncommon for events to be taken to absolute failure. Pushing your body to that stage is something you’re going to have to get comfortable with. Every time you fail, it’s a great opportunity to examine why you failed and work on strategies to improve. For example, if you failed a maximum distance carry event because you got gassed, then it’s something you can directly work on. If you failed a max reps event because your mind gave up before your body, you can focus on improving your mental toughness. Honest self-reflection and targeted improvement after failure is vital in strongwoman. You’re guaranteed to learn lessons which will be applicable to all other areas of your life.
You’ll Find A Tribe.
It’s no surprise that strongman or strongwoman attracts some interesting characters – this is one thing I particularly love about this sport. Regardless of your experience, skills, nationality, gender or religion, I’ve never seen a situation where somebody wasn’t welcomed with open arms into the extended community. Along with this warm welcome of ‘outsiders’ of the physical kind, it’s not surprising that those who might feel the same way socially or mentally often find their place within the strongwoman community. Many women say that they love the sport because they’ve found ‘their people’ there.
I’ve seen close friendships form over head-to-head events with their competition. I’ve seen an entire competition stop what they were doing and rally around somebody completely new to the sport who was struggling. This camaraderie is not something you find in many other non-team sports. It’s a huge part of the reason strongwoman is becoming so popular. When you have a community of women around you who will help build you up and push you to do your best, it can go a long way to helping you through setbacks and rough patches you might encounter.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and there are many other benefits to come from being involved in the sport. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, Valhalla Strength – South Brisbane are running the first all-female strongwoman competition held in QLD on February the 10th, and more information can be found >>here<<. Every entry also includes access to our weekly Ladies Nights at the gym, which run every Thursday night at 6:30 and will include events for this competition.
We’d finally like to take a moment to thank Gym Bandit for being such huge supporters of strongwoman in general!